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About an outstanding scientist and a Man of higher moral values

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For me A.I. Kitov is the man who opened the door into wonderful world of computer engineering and his name is identified with the notion “Outstanding scientist and a Man of high moral values”, who, in spite of all hardships and harshness of life, always preserved his own vision and understanding of the role of cybernetics and information science.

In the beginning I made acquaintance not with Anatoly[1] Ivanovich himself but with his fundamental book “Electronic Digital Machines and Programming”, written jointly with N.A. Krinitskiy and published in 1959. Then it was very difficult to find the book – it was sold at the shops within few days and numerous readers were waitlisted at libraries.

Once, when it was my fourth year at the Moscow Power-Engineering Institute (MPEI – technical university /A.N./), I was accompanied with some fellow-students to the Central department store for military personnel. It was called something like “Military trade”. In reality that was very popular shop with free access, located in the very centre of Moscow. It was there that we first found Kitov’s book and, of course, immediately bought it. It was in the 1960. For us – the students with speciality “Calculating and Computing Devices and Instrumentation” (the direct speciality “Computer Engineering” was established later at our institute) that was the first source which introduced us triumphant progress of the computer world and eventually bound all our scientific and industrial life to the computer machinery. Actually, we were lucky to graduate at that time. The end of 1950-s and beginning of the 1960-s were the years of especially intensive computer development (almost its “Golden period”). At the same time the famous ideological “Hunt for the cybernetics” as “reactionary and false science” (of the early 1950-s /A.N./) was also gone by due to efforts of progressive scientists and personal role of A.I. Kitov in that was more than notable. Already the “Scientific Council on the Complex Problem of Cybernetics” had been established at the USSR Academy of Sciences, chiefly by efforts of its first chairman admiral-engineer academician Axel I. Berg in Moscow. Similar Council was established at the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences Soviet Republic Ukraine in Kiev and headed by academician V.M. Glushkov.

Popular (civil) computers of the first generations: “Strela”, M-20 (later developed into M-220 and M-222), URAL, MIR-2 and BESM-6 were already in commercial production that time. That was the atmosphere surrounding us and we – the students – greedily ‘soaked in’ all scientific and engineering novelties. No need to say that the book by Kitov was like strain of a fresh air for us. 

Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov himself I met few years later, being already a post-graduate at the MPEI chair of Computer Engineering in 1967. Kitov was a member of the scientific council of our faculty and maintained good friendly relations with A.G. Shigin and Y.M. Shamaev. For me – a post-graduate and junior scientific collaborator, he was a sort of “heavenly dweller” – one of the USSR leading scientists. Of course for these reasons, as well as for the age difference, I could not make close personal contact with him. However, much later in his speech to the faculty scientific council, at the defence of my doctoral thesis, Kitov specially emphasised that preparing thesis on an engineering discipline V.N. Vagin (the author /A.N./) also proved some abstract theorems[2] although scientific and applied value of his work was good enough even without that, so he demonstrated level perfectly appropriate for the doctor’s degree. Of course after such statement of his, nobody of the council members tried to contradict and the thesis was officially approved. That happened in 1990. Naturally, for me that was one of the most bright, personal reminiscences about this wonderful man.

As for the time of the first computers and emerging of the cybernetics… well, as a specialist I was too young then and many of the things I learned then, have been properly realised much later. Anyway, even being a ‘junior’ I could feel the strength and tension of the intensive scientific growth and observe with admiration powerful, impressive and successful development of our computer science and industry of those times.

Unfortunately many people who contacted Anatoly Kitov then, already left this world. Those were Y.M. Shamaev, A.G. Shigin and many other his collaborators and colleagues.

People say, “Each time creates its own heroes”. The 1960 were culmination of the national scientific accent in the field of computer sciences and the cybernetics. That was still the time of the Soviet scientific pioneers and Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov forever takes his rightful place in the line of their names.

About the author: Vagin Vadim Nikolaevich – laureate of the Russian Federation President’s Premium for educational activity, academician, professor of the chair ‘Applied Mathematics’ MPEI, doctor of technical sciences.


1. also Anatoliy (AN)

2. what was extra work since he didn’t need to do it according to academic regulations /A.N./

Edited and translated by Alexander Nitusov

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